What’s an Escape Room Game?

Escape Room games place players in a ‘locked room’ which they try to escape from. To succeed at this challenge they’ll need to find clues, solve mysteries, and have a lot of fun!

Usually these escape rooms are elaborate adventure experiences, run as a professional business, but you can design your own to play at home. It’s great for chilling with friends, family or your soulmate.

Escape game being played

Download an escape kit

If hacking together a bunch of puzzles isn’t your thing just grab this escape kit or this kids/families one.

It contains the complete clues, puzzles and setup guide for a full game. You’ll need about 30 mins to prep, including printing the photos but is a super unique night in.

Once you’ve printed the kit, you can see what parts (if any) you want to customize. For example, swapping out one of the puzzles with a combination padlock or adding whole new sections. If you enjoy crafting puzzles, then you’ll love this part.

But if you’re anything like me you’re probably only planning this 2 hours ahead so you can always just run it as is. It’s still a lot of fun as you get to role play as characters, have some laughs, and cheat on the answers if you’re stuck ;)

Create your own from scratch

If you love crafting puzzles then you might prefer creating a full DIY escape room. You’ll need around 10 hours to plan & prep one of these but it’s totally fun.

Don’t worry – it doesn’t have to cost big $$ like the pros. Here’re a few puzzles you can easily make using props from around your home or a quick trip to the shops.

Note: If you’re after a more detailed guide check out my Blueprint for creating your 1st escape room.

Strange puzzle design

Locks ‘n latches

Bike chain on door handle

If you’re going to DIY an escape game including a lock or combination puzzle is a must. There’re heaps of cheap ways of designing one of these:

  • Bike chain on a door handle is an easy keypad lock.
  • Short chain + a padlock is awesome with 2 sliding doors.
  • Set a pin code on your phone, or tablet, which literally acts as a keypad entry. You can place this on top of a box, to make a locked chest, or tie it to a door handle.

All of these require your players to use some imagination but you’re doing this to have fun with mates – not run a business. If you’re concerned about it not feeling authentic enough just put a bit of effort into a great theme and story. E.g. grab some props from a thrift shop, add mood lighting with some candles, or jam some mojo in using a custom Spotify playlist etc…

Physical games

Magnet key puzzle

Group games, that get everyone involved, add a ton of laughs to your escape room. Try these:

  • Out of reach: Get some strong magnets and attached them to a key, or clue. Then place that clue in the bottom of your shower, with the door closed, or outside a window. Players need to find a hidden magnet and ‘suck’ the key up the glass until they can reach it.
  • Nerf shooting range: zone off an area of your home that players can’t cross until the puzzle is solved. The story could be anything – an ancient trap inside a tomb, bank security system, or even a hoard of zombies blocking your path.
  • Balance it: Grab your bathroom scales and attach a label with a goal weight on it. Players will need to find stuff, around your living room, that adds up exactly. Since you’ll be there, as the Game Master, you can judge when they accomplish this so there’s no fancy tech required.

Get a DIY Escape Room Pack

Ciphers and codes

Substitution cipher lookup

Basically every escape room on the planet uses ciphers. They’re fun, cheap to make, and add a lot of gameplay time as players try to solve them.
The only issue is making the too hard. Remember, you’re designing a fun game – not math class. Here’re some easy ciphers that are actually doable in a 60 min DIY game at home:

  • Substitution ciphers: Remember those secret notes you did as kids? The ones where A=1, B=2 etc… They’re called Substitution ciphers and are the best for designing your own escape game because they’re easily solved once players find the right clues. You can swap out anything you like – strange symbols, fun emoticons or even other letters/numbers.
  • Book codes: are literally undecipherable unless players find both clues. The 1st is a book/magazine and the 2nd is a series of numbers that correspond to words in that book. For a fun example, in this dot point the numbers 11 2 3 34 would mean The codes are fun.
  • Hide messages: leaving a message in plain sight makes your game super interesting because players have been staring at a clue for ages when they finally have a lightbulb moment. A simple example would be a hidden magnifying glass for small font, or placing a dot under particular letters in a newspaper article or writing a message backwards so that a mirror is needed to read it.
  • David Dickenson

    Hey Elliott, None of the links work for the escape room. We were looking at doing something like this for an event on new years eve. Can you give me any other resources or links?

    • Hi David, my bad I’ve been having some tech issues recently. All good now.

      Best one would be here:

      It’s my latest kit and great for parties! Love to hear how it goes for you.

      • monkeymiles

        Link is broken, also true for last email shot you sent

        • Yea sorry mate the other website was down. Back up now. Shoot me an email and I’ll send you a discount code for wasting your time. Cheers for the heads up mate.

  • Debbie Cranston

    Hello Elliott
    We are looking at doing a team building escape room for our dental office… Do you think this would work, or do you have a different scenario. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Debbie, I think we’ve already chatted via email. If not I’d recommend this kit – http://heistparty.com/escape-room-z It’s great for a team vs team setup where you print out 2+ versions of the game. Check the ‘Tips for larger groups’ section for some more details on making it work.

  • Megan Cuda

    what age is the kidsquest good for? is it easily adaptable so that there can be some locks, physical puzzles involved?

    • Hi Megan,

      it’s best for kids under 10. Since you’ll be there as the game master you can vary the difficulty and give more hints if needed. The most common challenge in the game is hunting and scavenging so that even young kids can be involved.

      As far as editing goes it’s actually super simple. The game comes with a PowerPoint version which you can edit anyway you like. I actually get a lot of parents changing it a lot for parties.

      Love to hear how it goes for you!

      • Megan Cuda

        So if I’m doing for really smart 9&10 year olds, will it be too easy? Can’t decide between the kids or grown up version

        • Hmm… it’s borderline Megan. You can make Escape Quest harder by hiding the clues in difficult locations, or editing the game using the template.

          Alternatively, you could try Grand Theft Antimatter (https://heistparty.com/grand-theft-antimatter) which is more a teens party pack but if you’re crew’s really switched on it’s probably worth a shot. If you order one, and it’s not what you’re after, I’ll send you the other for free since it sounds borderline.

          Both kids are really easy to edit so you can tone the difficultly up/down quite easily.

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